Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 100 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.15 million. In South Africa, there have been 6,041 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,423,578. Deaths have reached 41,797 (a daily increase of 680), while recoveries have climbed to 1,254,674, leaving the country with a balance of 127,107 active cases.
- Eskom debt: Power utility Eskom has now suffered two defeats in court over its method of cutting power to municipalities to force them to pay their arrear debt. In both cases, the courts found that it was irrational for Eskom to expect municipalities to pay off a decade of accrued debt in a short amount of time, knowing full-well that they do not have the money to do so. The courts said that Eskom needs to exhaust all mechanisms before turning to power cuts – which includes getting energy regulator Nersa and National Treasury involved. [Moneyweb]
- Education waste: Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is claiming ignorance over the R430 million spent by the department on the unnecessary ‘deep cleaning’ of schools over three months, saying he didn’t know about it until he was contacted by the media. He said that an investigation was being launched, where those in charge of the procurement of the services will be called to explain – while the auditor general will also get involved. [ENCA]
- Failed ban: A study of 25,000 smokers in South Africa found that the cigarette ban instituted by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 2020 – in a bid to get people to quit smoking amid rising Covid-19 infections – utterly failed to do the job. Of the smokers surveyed, only 7% made the attempt to quit, leaving the remaining 93% to source cigarettes illegally, and at inflated prices. Smokers were forced to the black market, where prices were 250% more. Government eventually lost a court battle against the ban, but is now appealing that ruling. [TimesLive]
- Ivermectin: Doctors are arguing for the prescription of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 patients be allowed in South Africa. Ivermectin is a drug commonly used to treat parasites in animals. The drug is currently not approved for human use by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), with claims of raids and prosecution against doctors that give it to patients. SAHPRA says more evidence and trials are needed to prove its efficacy against Covid. Doctors say that, while there are risks and side effects involved, the potential benefit to Covid patients far outweigh these. [Daily Maverick, SAHPRA]
- Markets: Today is D-Day for the Fed to announce its interest rate decision and provide an outlook for the US as the pandemic continues to unfold. The IMF has, however, soothed markets with an optimistic outlook, which saw the rand claw back lost ground. Chinese industrial profits for 2020 exceeded expectations, while US durable goods orders is due this afternoon. The rand starts the day on a solid footing, trading at R15.06 to the dollar, R18.32 to the euro and R20.69 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]